On the Jelly Roll


Chief Steward aboard the Mayflower, the Presidential yacht during the Coolidge Era, Lee Ping Quan (pronounced Chew-ahn) came from a family successful in both the art of cooking and the business of cooking supplies. Leaving China for the Philippines with his family, he would discover a passion for the preparation of cuisine from his uncle and come to the attention of the U.S. diplomatic team stationed at Manila. Lee would enter the U.S. Navy at age 20, earning renown over the next thirty years as a premier chef and diligent steward.

As the Chief Steward on the Mayflower, Lee would quickly learn the tastes of the many illustrious passengers who would travel aboard his ship. The Coolidges were among them and became Lee’s favorite Presidential couple. Through frequent interaction with the President, Lee discovered Cal’s resilient “sweet tooth,” a condition the skilled Master of the Galley regularly rewarded through the offerings on the menu.

12130122 mayflower 1928

The Mayflower, 1928. Photo credit: Library of Congress.

It was the Jelly Roll, as Lee prepared it, that became Coolidge’s #1 favorite. Lee even preserved the recipe in his charming 1938 book To a President’s Taste. The recipe, given below, was replicated by our household this past week for a birthday gathering and proved a remarkable dish. We see why Cal enjoyed it.

Lee Ping would leave the service in 1929 with the retirement of the Mayflower and achieve his lifelong dream: a restaurant of his own in New York City. The Coolidges remained proud of their dear friend’s success.

Here is the President’s favorite recipe:

The Jelly Roll

12 eggs                      4 tbsp. cream

8 oz sugar               2 tsp. vanilla

6 oz flour

Lee says: “Beat the eggs until stiff and add the sugar, cream and flour. Mix together; then add the vanilla. Place in two pans and bake in a slow oven for twenty minutes, then remove and cover with jelly or strawberry jam and roll. Cover with lemon icing and decorate to taste.”

While this would have been instinctive to Lee Ping, we found chilling the baked dough – before adding the jelly – for 30 minutes or so, enables the filling to be added without cracking or splitting the dough during the rolling stage. The icing (not glaze) helps “encase” and contain the contents for easy slicing. Chill then serve. Lastly, enjoy!

The dozen eggs give it a delightfully light consistency and a pleasant contrast with the fresh sweetness of the jelly and the mild tartness of the icing. Try it…it may prove to be the next favorite in your house.

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